Thursday, February 01, 2007

Can you hear me now?

No one should have to endure the nightmare Barbara Langer experienced on the Northway, shouted angry legislators and editorial pages across the state this week. Cellular service along a barren stretch of road in the otherwise pristine Adirondack Park would have saved Langer's husband, Alfred, who succumbed to hypothermia 19 hours after the couple's car sailed off the highway and into an obscure swath of woods in rural Essex County.

Using words like 'outrageous' and 'incomprehensible,' these righteous lawmakers and editorialists brutally castigated everything from the chiseler service providers for being too cheep to install cell towers along the swath of forest to the environmentalist for rallying against 100-foot cell towers being built in New York's largest park.

But as tragic as this accident was, Alfred Langer's ultimate demise could have been thwarted by something a lot simpler and less costly than a 70-mile row cell phone towers. Were the Langers to employ even an ounce of common sense, chances are pretty good they both would have escaped their ordeal with at least their lives.

At one point in the not-so-distant past --before the advent of cell phones and GPS systems --motorists prepared themselves for long trips. Some may even remember outfitting their cars with blankets, flares and even fire extinguishers before going on long journeys. These were staple items that could be stowed easily in any car and could come in handy at an accident scene, regardless of the circumstances.

Another simple tact motorists once used was a few calls on the good ol' land line. Call someone before you leave, tell them when you're going to arrive and then call someone when you finally get there. Then, if you don't arrive at your destination, someone can dispatch help or at least sound the alarm. Before the massive proliferation of cell phones, mothers across the nation routinely employed this technique to ensure their progeny wasn't bleeding off to the side of the road; after all, it's a common sense move.

But now, with automobiles safer than ever and with the conveniences of everything from roadside assistance to robust state police patrols, many drivers forget how perilous it is to traverse the highway. This is especially the case when it comes to barreling through nearly a hundred miles of desolate mountain terrain, where help will take a while to come even if they know where an accident is.

In Albany, the answer to this tragedy is more legislation. Make sure there's cell service on the Northway, because that will save lives --just like the call-boxes located at every quarter mile along the way. Then in a few years, when an accident victim dies because their cell battery expired, these same legislators can mandate that all automobiles be outfitted with OnStar systems. Maybe in a few decades, they can commission a 30-foot rubber wall running the length of I-87 so that no motorist will ever unexpectedly leave the highway.

The bottom line is you can't legislate common sense. And common sense is what saves lives, not cell phones, not cell towers and certainly not legislators.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

One has to wonder if this story would have drawn such publicity were in not for the deceased's religious, political, media, and lobbying affiliations.

Yes, for the record, I believe:

Israel has a right to exist (but perhaps not without being questioned about its policies);

Judiasm is just as good a religion as any other (but no better and certainly no worse); and,

The Holocaust was nothing short of an atrocity (just don't forget The Crusades or, of more recent vintage, Hutus employing for the most part machetes to slaughter 700,000 Tutsis in a 100-day period in Rwanda during the mid-1990s).

Sadly, someone perished on the Northway. Nothing can change that.

One just wonders, without a shred of anti-Semitism (although I'm sure Al Dershowitz would find something wrong with me), whether the coverage of this story has more to do with money, politics, and powerful lobbying interests than with the actual good of the people.

2:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wishing something were so will not make it so.

It's all well and good to condemn people for "stupidity," but it's still going to happen, and they're still going to die if there's no cell tower, so what does condemning them buy you in the first place?

2:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow! That was probably the best blog entry I ever read - bold, honest, on point, and most importantly, very valuable to all of us. I guess in the wake of a tragedy, we try so hard to be comforting, sypathetic and delicate, that we hesitate to point out obvious mistakes, but mistakes clearly were made here, and it caused so much misery.

Your points about emergency items was excellent, and additionally I couldn't help but think to myself that perhaps they should have gotten a hotel in Plattsburgh or something, rather than driving so late after a wedding. The accident happened sometime after 1am. I don't know the cause of this accident, but a lot of one car accidents on dark lonely roads that late at night are caused by drivers falling asleep at the wheel. Even if it was purely environmental, like slippery roads, one's senses just aren't sharp that late at night, and drivers must give themselves every edge. Taking a trip through such a desolate area in the winter requires proper planning, and that includes ensuring proper rest and proper equipment. That planning apparently and unfortunately didn't happen here. I still think that we need to get cell towers up there as soon as we can, and that this was just an awful tragedy (and my heart goes out to the Langner family), but your point about being prepared is very well stated and very appreciated.

3:02 PM  
Blogger Don and Sher said...

It was a combination of things, trying to drive back to NYC in the middle of the night after a long day, and like you say, not being prepared for an accident or breakdown, and the lack of cell service.

9:44 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Not to split hairs here because I was not in the car, but apparently they were unable to get the car doors open to hypothetically get into the trunk of the car where most people might have emergency gear. Also, her back was broken after the car went airborne and landed in trees.

3:18 PM  

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